Is a community kitchen coming to your community?

by guest blogger George Crankovic

What’s a community kitchen? It’s a local café serving healthy meals where you choose the size of your portions and — get this — you pay what you think the meal is worth.

Community kitchens are the brainchild of Denise Cerreta, who opened One World Café in Salt Lake City in 2003 with the idea of letting people pay what they can as a way to combat hunger and poverty. People who can afford to pay do so. But those who have less money can simply take a smaller portion and pay less. People who can’t pay at all can volunteer to cover the cost of their meal, or they can have a simple meal of rice and dhal for free.

Now, Panera Bread founder Ron Shaich has latched onto the idea, and he’s opening a nonprofit café called the St. Louis Bread Company Cares Café.

Shaich feels it’s an experiment. “I’m trying to find out what human nature is all about,” he said. “It’s a fascinating psychological question. There’s no pressure on anyone to leave anything. But if no one left anything, we wouldn’t be open long.” (more here)

Right now there are about 50 community kitchens across the country in the planning stages or completed. It’s a trend that’s liable to continue.

For the charitable minded, community kitchens will seem like a great idea. This is participatory charity, since the donor is taking an active role simply by going to the kitchen and having a meal there. It’s community-based charity too, since the person sitting at the next table may very well be unemployed, down on his luck, or homeless. It’s a lot different from simply writing a check and going on with your life. A community kitchen that you frequent could easily become a part of your life.

So where does that leave traditional fundraising? We could grouse about how community kitchens are an unholy alliance between charity and commerce, since they’re for-profit businesses and nonprofit entities at the same time. We could argue that community kitchens are not “real” charity, since patrons are receiving something tangible — a meal — for their money, instead of simply giving for the sake of giving.

But the fact is, a lot of donors want involvement. And it’s actually good that organizations like community kitchens are forcing us to compete and find new ways to involve donors and bring them closer — in mail appeals, on the web, in social media, through events, and in other ways we haven’t thought of yet. Charitable giving isn’t one dimensional. Our fundraising can’t be either.


Comments

2 responses to “Is a community kitchen coming to your community?”

  1. I am thinking – if you can afford to pay less, chances are you would be hungrier and would want to take more food.

  2. I am thinking – if you can afford to pay less, chances are you would be hungrier and would want to take more food.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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